A moon has pasted since I’ve graduated college and to be honest, I feel kind of wimp-ish instead of accomplished. I feel like all I do is sit around the house. But maybe I’m just giving myself a hard time because I haven’t even tried to find a job yet? Instead, I’ve been concluding my final class online, finishing my employment at a local restaurant, working on a 1000-piece puzzle of Mona Lisa, writing and cooking for this blog as much as possible, cleaning the house over and over (I do love cleaning, so this isn’t a major setback), volunteering at a farm (in case you haven’t noticed ;-)) and practicing yoga (for strength-building purposes). All these are great things but whenever hubby leaves for work and doesn’t come back for 8-10 hours I always feel a little sad that I’m not going anywhere all day, every day anymore. I miss a schedule and structure. But then again, I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom to do whatever I want now. (Until I find a job, that is.)
The nice thing about all this time is that I can try recipes that are time-consuming. Such as lasagna. And let me tell you guys: I am SO proud of myself for making this dish because I usually discard a recipe if it takes me longer than an hour; BUT I bravely faced this one, just so that I could make the most delicious homemade lasagna ever, and surprise hubby when he returned home from work (he LOVES lasagna and has been asking for months for me to make it!). He was surprised, indeed!
What’s so amazing about this dish is that there’s no wrong way to make it. Cheese, noodles and tomato sauce are the base; the rest is up to the cook. Meat or no meat; veg or no veg — that’s completely optional. I took the initiative of doing both by using up some farm and backyard fresh greens in the spaghetti sauce along with ground turkey. (Can somebody say kid-friendly?) The degree to which all the flavors combined was phenomenal. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again!
Vegetarian and/or Meat Lasagna
Now, I’ll just forewarn you that there are a lot of steps to this recipe; therefore, don’t lose patience with reading through to the end. Trust me — it’s worth it! :)
- 1/2 lb lasagna noodles (1/2 box)
Spaghetti Sauce –
- 1 lb ground meat (I used turkey), fully cooked
- 2-4 TBS oil
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 3 TBS garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 3 leaves kale, sliced thinly
- 2 leaves rainbow chard, sliced thinly
- Salt, pepper (a pinch of each)
- Fresh basil and oregano chopped (dried is okay, too)
- 2 cans spaghetti sauce
Cheese Sauce –
- 1 large carton cottage cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2-4 TBS flour (depending on how watery the cottage cheese is)
- 1/2 – 1 cup mozzarella cheese
1. START NOODLES. Get a large pot of water on the stove to precook the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and wait until water comes to a boil.
2. COOK MEAT. While the water is heating up, cook the meat in a separate pan until no pink is showing. If you’re cooking beef, drain off any fat that remains.
3. START SPAGHETTI SAUCE. While meat is cooking, grab another pan, put it on the stove and drop in a couple tablespoons of oil. Turn the stove on MED-LOW. After about 30 seconds, add your diced onion and garlic. Stir and sauté for about two minutes and then add the carrots; cook for another couple minutes and then add the greens. At this point, pour a couple tablespoons of water into the pan to let the greens steam on LOW without having to add more oil (and to prevent burning). Put a lid on the pot and let them wilt for 5 minutes, watching them to make sure they don’t burn. Stir and/or add water if needed.
4. RETURN TO NOODLES. While veggies are simmering and meat is cooking (stir it if needed), pour noodles into boiling water and stir to prevent sticking (I had to break my noodles in half to allow them to fit in the pot). Put a timer on 8 minutes to make sure noodles don’t overcook.
5. MAKE CHEESE SAUCE. Before doing this step, check on the veggies and give them a little stir. They should be wilting nicely but not turning too brownish. Turn off the heat if you feel like they’re cooking too much. …In a separate bowl, mix the cottage cheese, beaten egg, flour and cheese and set aside for a moment.
6. RETURN TO SPAGHETTI SAUCE. To the veggies add 2 cans spaghetti sauce, the cooked meat, fresh herbs (basil and oregano) and salt and pepper. Simmer on LOW for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
7. FINISH NOODLES. At this point your noodles will probably be done (it’s okay if they’re still a bit stiff since we’ll be putting this dish in the oven for 1 hour). Drain the noodles and rinse them with cold water to prevent them from sticking together and to make them easier to handle.
8. FINISH SPAGHETTI SAUCE. Your sauce is probably finished, so you can turn off the heat and give it a stir and a sniff. (Mmmm — doesn’t it smell luscious?!)
9. ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA. Now — finally — you’re ready to assemble your lasagna. Spray a 13×9 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Then pour enough sauce to barely coat the bottom of the pan.
Proceed with a layer of noodles, then cheese sauce (1 1/2 cups), noodles, spaghetti sauce, noodles, cheese sauce etc. until you get to the top. You’ll want to end with the spaghetti sauce, so ration it as you go along. Finally, you’ll top off the casserole with 1 1/2 -2 cups of mozzarella cheese. You might have some spaghetti sauce leftover but you can either freeze it or refrigerate it for another dish :)
This is what it looks like before I put the cheese on!
Bake your lasagna covered with aluminum foil (spray the underside of the foil) and place the pan on a cookie sheet with a lip (because it WILL bubble over and burn in your oven and make the kitchen smoke and the fire alarm go off! Haha). Bake for 30 minutes on 350°F. Then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. The lasagna should be very bubbly and slightly crispy on top when it’s finished. Bake at 5 minute increments longer if you don’t think it’s quite finished.
Enjoy with a salad and/or homemade rolls!!